The First Crusade: a success?

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To what extent did the response to Urban II's call to Crusade in 1095 correspond to the pope's plans?

"The remarkable success of Urban's crusade seemed to confirm his preaching theme that God was fighting with the crusaders"

-Penny J. Cole

This view, that the First Crusade was a great success, is still generally accepted today, as it was by contemporaries. The crusaders themselves, convinced that their mission had been achieved, "entitled their chronicles Gesta Dei per Francos, God's work done by the hand of the Franks". But did the people of the First Crusade really fulfil all that Pope Urban II had been hoping for? If he had lived to hear of the capture of Jerusalem would he have agreed that the Crusade had been a "remarkable success"? This essay will examine the question of what Urban II was hoping for when he made call to Crusade at Clermont, and whether the people who responded to this call really achieved these aims.

So what exactly did Urban appeal for at Clermont? Since even the eyewitness accounts of the council of Clermont differ as to what the Pope asked for, any list of his aims for the crusade can only be tentative. It is probably safe to assume, however, that a chronicler's difficulty to remember the Pope's words were more likely to result in the omission, rather than the addition, of some part of what Urban said, in a chronicler's account. Therefore, for the purpose of this essay, if one of Urban's aims is mentioned by any of the eyewitnesses at Clermont, it will be taken as valid.

According to Robert of Reims, who had been at the council of Clermont, Urban had a very definite idea as to the type of people that he wanted to take part...